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for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
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National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam

  In the News - Friday, JUNE 11, 2004



The BEST of KAWEAH COUNTRY Readers' Poll, which seeks input from readers' about their favorite places, is currently ongoing.

Call for a copy of the May 28 issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth and complete one, some, or all of the categories at 559-561-3627. Your results will appear in the August 6 edition.

     Also in the May 28 print edition is the annual VISITOR GUIDE 2004.

     If you missed this issue, you're missing out!


Alta Fire consumes six acres

Grass fire also blackens hills in Woodlake


On Tuesday, just after noon, a fast moving grass fire caused some anxious moments when it spread dangerously close to three homes on La Cienega Drive in the Alta Acres area of Three Rivers. A heavy equipment operator employed by a well-drilling company ignited the blaze that consumed six acres.

   “A quick response and several aircraft making drops really helped us knock down what could have been a tragic fire,” said Felix Rodriguez, Tulare County battalion chief who acted as the incident commander. “The clearance around the nearby homes certainly was a big help.”

    In addition to Tulare County and CDF firefighters, two National Park Service engines also responded from Ash Mountain. The NPS helicopter based at Ash Mountain assisted in an air attack of the fire with three tankers from Fresno, Porterville, and Paso Robles.

  While the Three Rivers fire was being mopped up, another blaze, which is suspected to be the work of an arsonist, broke out in an orchard adjacent to Antelope Mountain — the old “W” hill — north of the Castle Rock subdivision in Woodlake. No structures were lost, but 8 00 acres of grassland were charred.

    Chief Rodriguez, who is stationed in the Badger-Woodlake-Ivanhoe area, said he is impressed by the job Three Rivers residents have done this season to provide defensible space.

   “Be sure to do mowing and clearance work in the morning hours when humidity and moisture levels are higher,” reminded Rodriguez.


Lake project


Basin blessed by Native Americans,

water officials, politicans


Last Monday’s timing of dedicating Lake Kaweah’s newly enlarged basin and one-third more storage capacity in an unusually dry year didn’t diminish the jubilant mood of the crowd gathered at Lemon Hill. The enlarged spillway, off in the distance and the centerpiece of the day’s celebration, was resplendent with its huge American flag and a fire truck pumping a giant spray of water from its nozzle in salute.
   Each of the dozen speakers who addressed the gathering knew firsthand how difficult it had been to complete a project of this scope and magnitude.

  “The idea for enlargement was being discussed as soon as the original Terminus Dam was completed in the 1960s,” said Jim Costa, a retired state senator and longtime advocate of Valley water projects. “By the 1980s, those discussions really became serious.”
   Two decades later and after an expenditure of $58 million, what seemed so recently as so much pie in the sky, an enlarged Lake Kaweah is now reality.

  “When was the last time you saw this much water in the basin?” asked county Supervisor Bill Sanders. “Actually, for a short time in 1997, the old spillway was sandbagged and the elevation was raised five feet to just about where it is today.”
   That current level, still sixteen feet shy of the new capacity, was enough to submerge three-fourths of the Horse Creek campsites and knock the “number two” boat ramp out of commission. Even as the ceremony was taking place, the lake’s water level had begun its steady retreat as the outflow is now consistently exceeding the inflow.
   But it’s the future implications of the project that really have water officials and downstream residents beaming. Foremost is that Valley residents will now be protected from floods like those that devastated the area in the 1950s and 1960s. And just the thought of all that extra water in a normal year has agricultural and recreational users feeling another kind of security.
   Gloria Morales, a board member from the state Bureau of Reclamation, said she was just a Valley schoolgirl when she first heard about the Lake Kaweah enlargement project. Now she is a grandmother, she said, and the project is complete.

  “The bureau contributed $20 million of the $58 million that was needed to complete the enlargement,” Morales said. “But my hat is off to the local people who had the tenacity to make it happen.”
  Clarence Atwell, chief of the Tachi Yokut tribe, offered a Native American blessing at the ceremony. He asked the Great Father for permission and guidance to use the basin, which is a resting place and former home of many native peoples, as well as asked for "safe passage" for the recently-deceased Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), 40th president of the United States, to join the Great Father in Heaven.


In their own words: Historic quotes from the June 7 Lake Kaweah Enlargement Project dedication ceremony...

Jim Costa, state senator

(ret.), candidate for

Congress, 20th District,

and master of


The discussions of this enlargement began to get really serious in the 1980s. Getting this project [done] was like trying to nail Jell-o to a tree.


Mark Charlton,

deputy for project

management, U.S.

Army Corps of


I want to especially thank Three Rivers for their patience during the construction. These 900,000-pound fuse-gates will be a tourist attraction to engineers from all over the world.

Cal Dooley, congressman,

20th District:

In my 14 years in Congress, this is one of the few federal projects that was brought to completion... Water projects are bipartisan in the Valley.


Brett Graham,

manager, Tulare Lake

Basin Storage


We thank you all for seeing this project to completion.

Bob Link, mayor, Visalia:

In 1955, seeing Christmas trees and presents floating down the streets of Visalia made an indelible impression on me. Thank you, Jack Chrisman, for your vision in getting this project rolling.


Bill Maze,

assemblyman, 34th


As an Exeter High School student, I watched this dam and highway being built. We can be grateful for the vision of leaders like [former state senator] Ken Maddy, who had the foresight of the importance of this water for our Valley.

Don Mills, chairman,

Kaweah Delta Water

Conservation District:

It was the superhuman effort of Bruce George [KDWCD manager] that kept this project on track. Our mantra was: Keep the project on time, on schedule, and on budget!


Devin Nunes,

congressman, 21st


I hope we never lose sight of the fact that the primary function of this structure is to protect people and property from damaging floods that occasionally sweep down from these hills. For that reason, it is money well spent.

Jon Rachford, chairman,

Kings County Board of


Can you ever imagine Kings County and Tulare County agreeing on something? This project is one thing we could all agree on.


Bill Sanders,

chairman, Tulare

County Board of


Today, we can truly say we're from the government and we're here to help you. This is one of the best things we have ever been involved in.


New 3R

postmaster appointed

On Monday, June 7, Janet King, officer-in-charge of the Three Rivers Post Office, announced that Lori Ontiveros, the current postmaster at Ducor, was appointed to fill the vacant top job at Three Rivers. King, a Three Rivers resident who was also a candidate for the position, will return to her postmaster position at the Lemon Cove Post Office.
   Ontiveros, who lives in Lindsay, is officially replacing Carole Howard, who several months ago was appointed as postmaster of Orange Cove. The new postmaster will begin her new job on Saturday, June 26.
   The Three Rivers Post Office, established in 1879, serves more than 1,500 postal box holders and does a large per capita mailing business relative to postal stations similar in size.


TRUS eighth-graders

hit the streets

of San Francisco


This story is part of the Three Rivers School graduation feature that appears in the June 11 print edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth and has photos of this year's eighth-grade graduates and the honors they received at the commencement ceremony held Thursday, June 3.


For at least 40 years — and actually a lot longer but nobody seems to be able to pin down a date — local eighth-graders have been going to San Francisco as a culmination of their Three Rivers School years. That means for 40 years and beyond, Three Rivers residents have been supporting the students in their fundraising endeavors — from car washes, bake sales, and snow-cones to Jazzaffair food service and Community Calendars.
   That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars that Three Rivers has cumulatively paid. So is it worth it?
Well, the trip has my stamp of approval. The kids definitely get what you pay for and more.
   Each year, there are several of the young teens who have never been to San Francisco. Also, many have never been fully responsible for themselves in a big-city environment, had to be their own time manager, ridden public transportation, been in a professional sports stadium, seen live theatre, and most have never eaten in a restaurant on their own, from being seated to paying the tab and tip. All this and many more firsts are experienced on this trip and the kids return home a little wiser, a little more travel savvy, and very tired.
   So travel along with the Class of 2004 on this year’s trip and see for yourself. And with a few weeks of perspective behind me, I can also offer future chaperones a few survival tips.

8:30 A.M.— It was 25 excited students who embarked on this long-awaited, hard-earned, three-day adventure. The bus pulled alongside the classroom on Eggers Drive and the kids, 12 chaperones, and teacher-turned-tour-guide Gail Matuskey loaded their luggage and climbed onboard.
   Twelve chaperones (5 couples and 2 moms), 25 kids. Pretty good odds, huh? It should be a breeze to keep these soon-to-be high schoolers from cursing, littering, violating curfew, smoking in the boys room, or getting lost.
   That’s right — the first commandment for chaperones is: Thou shalt not lose thy kids. This rule is intended to spare the school district from irate parents who, after the trip, ask unreasonable questions like, “Where is my child?”
   9 A.M.— The luxurious, colorful Classic Charter bus hit the highway with Robert behind the wheel. The driver is someone everyone gets to know well over the course of the trip.
   11:30 A.M.— A lunch break at the McDonald’s in Los Banos is the first stop. The chaperones distributed $5 from the trip fund to each of their small group of students and themselves. Back on the bus, the DVDs School of Rock and You Got Served were all viewed by the time we reached the city. The commandment “Censor thy videos” was not necessary on this trip, but Gail Matuskey, who has a decade of trips under her belt, knows the implications of this tip.
   3 P.M.— The bus dropped our group in front of Hostelling International’s downtown location in what used to be the Hotel Virginia on Mason Street at O’Farrell, a block off Union Square. The hostel is nestled amidst restaurants, theatres, art galleries, and the city’s famous shopping district, and the atmosphere is electric and the excitement contagious.
   It was 38 of us that checked into the hostel and flocked to the third floor, scattering in various directions to our assigned rooms. Two sets of bunk beds adorned our corner room that had two windows that looked across alleys to other buildings.
   We had a sink, radiator-type heater, lockers in the closet and, the girls were thrilled to see, an electrical outlet, which is a luxury here and was used solely for hair appliances.
   A shared bathroom separated our accommodations from the next room, which also had four females from our party. Next commandment: Take thy showers at night, which none of us did, so early doesn’t even describe when the cleansing rituals began.
We settled in, and had about 30 minutes to grab what we needed for an afternoon in the city and a night at a Giants baseball game.
   After a few searches and retrievals of stragglers, we were all assembled in the hostel’s lobby. Then we followed tour guide Matuskey like ducklings to the heart of Union Square to catch a cable car (invented in 1873; designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 it stated on the ticket).
   We quickly filled up the car and each paid our $3 for the privilege of the ride and incredible views on the way to San Francisco’s waterfront. At Pier 39, an outdoor mall that extends into San Francisco Bay, everyone received $10 and then let loose on the pier to shop or play as they wished.
   6:15 P.M.— The bus met us at the entrance to Pier 39 and took us to SBC Park, where the Giants would be playing the Arizona Diamondbacks. Everyone received $20 and a ticket to the game.
   Another commandment is: It’s okay to enter the stadium after the game has commenced and here’s why. As we climbed to the second deck and were crossing the “Old Navy Splash Landing” on the way to our seats, Barry Bonds hit a foul ball directly over our heads and we all watched it splash into McCovey Cove.
   Later in the evening, from our left-field seats, which had a great view of Barry Bonds when in his left-field position, we also witnessed a Bonds homerun and watched the scoreboard as the TRUS Class of 2004 appeared in lights on the list of those being welcomed to the stadium.
   The Diamondbacks were up by one run as the clock ticked 9:15, the time we had to leave to meet our bus. Barry Bonds was due up, so our curfew was extended.
He was walked, but the next player batted two runs in, and we reluctantly pried ourselves away from the game knowing that the Giants had won.
   10 P.M.— We were back in our rooms with lights out at 11 p.m. Yeah, right.

5 A.M.—
The sounds of the city were amazing to this country mom who usually has little tolerance to any peep except river and frogs. But it was in awe that I listened while lying in my top bunk that night — people shouting, screeching tires, skidding tires, sirens, diesel trucks, motorcycles, squeaky brakes, horns, trash cans, car alarms, dogs…
   7 A.M.— Thank goodness there’s a Starbuck’s on every corner. I got my coffee early, then returned and distributed my group’s $5 in breakfast money. Our group toured the neighborhood looking at bakeries, a ’50s diner, fast food and other restaurants and finally decided on eating at an Italian street café.
   9:15 A.M.— We were back on the cable cars and headed to Chinatown. We first assembled at the historic St. Mary’s Church, where the students were told they could explore either side of Grant Street between California and Jackson streets. Everyone was provided with $10 for lunch and shopping and again went their separate ways to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of this unique San Francisco neighborhood.
   12:15 P.M.— We reassembled at St. Mary’s Church. Commandment: Never doubt that kids have a watch and know how to use it. It is nothing short of amazing that 25 of them always arrived on time from points afar.
We walked a few blocks to meet our bus, since it is too large to negotiate the streets of Chinatown. We were off to spend the afternoon at the Exploratorium.
   To be continued...

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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